Dear Abby:

I am a 42-year-old woman. To those around me I seem to have everything -- great kids, a beautiful home, a career and a pretty good life. But deep down I am miserably lonely.

I divorced a cheating spouse eight years ago. I haven't been in a serious relationship since.

I have concentrated on my children, my career and my financial portfolio. But now that my kids are older and I have a lot of idle time on my hands, I miss being in a relationship.

I have tried singles groups, chat lines, and I'm even attending more social events, to no avail. I take good care of myself and look good for my age. But the 20- and 30- something competition makes it hard, if not impossible, to attract the kind of man I'd like to be with.

What advice have you for someone my age who has been benched for years and is ready to play ball again?

Lonely in Georgia

Only this: Stop selling yourself short. You have stability and life experience to offer, and a man with an eye for quality will appreciate it. Don't be discouraged; dating is a hit-and-miss game, regardless of age. You are only in the fourth inning, so get off your rusty-dusty, stay out there and keep on pitching.

Dear Abby:

I am a 36-year-old woman with AIDS. Before I was diagnosed, I worked -- usually as a secretary -- in various parts of the country. I had no problem finding work. Then my health deteriorated, and I wasn't able to work for a long time. Recently I was given new medications and I'm now healthier than I have been in a decade.

I am able to work and want to get off disability, but I now have a 10-year gap in my work history. If I mention the reason on a job application, I'm afraid no one will hire me.

I could lie and say I was "staying home with the children," but I don't have any children. Can you advise me on how to handle this?

Wants to Work in Milwaukee

Certain questions are illegal in the job hiring process, including a person's general medical condition, state of health or illness, and/or physical or mental disabilities. You are not legally required to discuss your health. If you are asked, you are within your rights to say that you didn't work for personal reasons.

Dear Abby:

What is the protocol for avoiding a co-worker's third wedding?

Everyone in our office was invited to her second one, a large, catered affair. We all knew the marriage wouldn't last because she was marrying a jobless, irresponsible parasite.

She is again marrying for the wrong reasons. She admits she doesn't love her fiance, but he provides security and takes care of her two sons from her first marriage, both of whom have problems she can't handle.

I don't plan to attend, so am I obligated to send a gift?

She's having another large wedding, she says, because they need money for the house they just bought.

Disgusted in Detroit

You are under no obligation to give your co-worker a gift if you do not attend her fundraiser. Since you have to work with the woman, consider sending a lovely greeting card or token gift along with your good wishes.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate